Juneau Jazz And Classics
Better bargains, albeit with inferior acoustics, may have been a free noon concert in the lobby of a government office building the following day and a midweek workshop in a rehearsal room at the University of Alaska Southeast. The workshop in particular proved fertile as the players took advantage of long solos and simple songs to demonstrate techniques during the first half, followed by an hour of individual work with the 20 audience members and a group jam session.
"I was feeling intimidated" at the thought of playing on-stage, said John Sanchez, who learned from bassist Andy Hall how to improvise over a blues scale on "Song For My Father." "I feel pretty comfortable now."
Middle and high school students, plus the community Thunder Mountain Big Band, got similar lessons, playing a series of half-hour concerts with Newmann in the university's library on the festival's final day. There was the expected range of local talent and a few hitches such as needing to hold microphones for soloists on quieter instrumentals, but most interviewed said they managed to learn something in a short time.
"As long as you play confidently it's OK if you screw up," said Rachel Stauffer, a sophomore at Juneau-Douglas High School who plays trombone.
The most accomplished jazz performance of the festival was Coryell's concert on the second to last night. At the very least it was a striking lesson in a sideman's ability to drastically alter a group's presentation as drummer Paul Wertico dominated much of the evening with intense and complex fusion tracks. With a more conventional drummer Coryell and bassist Mark Egan are a talented modern Wes Montgomery-like trio, but "it goes to 11" with Wertico's cutting-edge mixture of diverse sounds constantly reassembled into unexpected yet exact pacings.
Coryell cited Montgomery, Joe Pass, John Scofield and Pat Metheny as influences, and shades of all could be heard during the two-and-a-half hour performance. The opening "Bags" featured Coryell occupying most of the time with a mellow Pass-like blues and good chordal harmonies, stepping up the pace dramatically as Wertico built up the intensity culminating in a thick cymbal-roll texture. Coryell and Wertico traded shots toward the end, but the four-bar passages made Wertico's work feel like steam being released from a pressure cooker about to explode - a trait that persisted for much of the evening.
The lid came off on "Trinkle Tinkle" and again near the end of the concert on "Spaces Revisited," the latter opening with a rapid low bass drum rumble and hand-driven leads, with Wertico picking up his sticks after a couple of minutes and launching an all-out assault. He backed off for the meat of the tune before ending it with a second endurance run of cymbal bashing and rolls. Both songs ended with the only standing ovations from some or all of the audience, although crowd reaction to the trio in general was strong most of the evening. The biggest weakness was Egan, and Coryell to a lesser extent, at times saw their contributions overwhelmed by the drums.
Corywell and Wertico conducted separate free two-hour clinics at the university during the last morning of the festival, with the guitarist able to do more group and individual work with a classroom of players who brought their instruments. Wertico spent the morning discussing and demonstrating a wide variety of influences and technique to about 20 students and other locals who play a variety of instruments - plus a few guest artists like Newmann who unobtrusively mixed with the audience. Along with general concepts such as achieving speed through relaxation, Wertico spent considerable time discussing how the wide range of music he listened to from the 1960s influenced his style.
"The free music has a purpose back then," he said. "It was associated with a movement....people were breaking the rules back then and paying for it."
OTHER MOMENTS OF NOTE
Other performers probably had a stronger connection with Juneau's cultural leanings, including the folk duo Trout Fishing In America, which performed a "family concert" of often humorous and quirky originals and conducted a song-writing workshop for students. They were hailed as "the best group that I know" by Jeff Brown, perhaps Juneau's most-known musical presence as the host of the nationally syndicated public radio program "We Like Kids."
Among the classically oriented highlights was a midweek "Schumann to Showboat" concert by baritone vocalist Jubilant Sykes, accompanied by pianist Alan Chow. One of the festival's largest audiences filled most of 1,000-seat high school amphitheater, a reflection to some degree of the community's "high art" leanings. He delivered an even operetic/pops performance split between standards, gospel and classical compositions, but without getting into contemporary material such as Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan he performs in larger ensembles.